Italian Youth Group Uniforms


Figure 1.--These Italian Scouts pose on a camping trip. The photograpah was probably taken about 1990. The photo is of an AGESCI scout group. AGESCI is the union (in 1974) of the ASCI (male) and AGI (female), and it is the Italian Association of Catholic Scouts and Guides. These boys look like Rovers.

HBU knows of no Italian uniformed organizations that formed during the late 19th century. Scouts were organized in the early 20th century and were the dominate youth groupin the 1910s and early 1920s. Musolini's Fascists were the first western European country to abolish Scouting and establish a mandatory youth group--the Balial. After World War II the Scouts again appeared and was the dominate youth movement. HBU knows of no other significant uniformed youth movement in Italy.

Italian Scouts

Italy like many European countries does not have a single scout federation. As a result there is no single scout uniform, as each scout association has there own destinctive uniform. The first activities of the Boy Scouts in Italy took place in Rome in 1912, under the sponsorship of the Lazio Track & Field Society. This original effort led to the formation of the Boy Scouts of Italy/Giovani Esploratori Italiani (GEI), which was officially founded in Rome on June 30, 1913 by Carlo Colombo. The GEI soon spread to all parts of the Italy. In the beginning it embodied all Italian Boy Scouts, including those who had previously joined a Scout-like organization adherents to the REI. It had been inspired by Baden Powell's English organization and in 1910 had brought the first Scout uniform to Italy. Several scouting group for girls were created in 1914. These groups were the predecesors of the Italian National Union of Girl Guides (UNGEI). The Italian Government officially recognized the GEI on May 5, 1915. With the exceptiion of the Fascist era, the Italian Goverment has strongly supported the Scout Movement. The Chief patron of the GEI was the head of state (formerly the King of Italy). Other patrons included deputies of the Ministry of Education, the Office of Foreign Affairs, the Home Office and the War Office (now the Ministry of Defense). The Government in 1916 acknowledged the GEI for its educational role on behalf of the nation's youth and became officially a national institution. From the earliest years, the members of Italy's Scouting and Guide organizations rendered distinguished service in times of local or national calamity, and received many citations for valor. Musolini's Fascist Government ordered the Scout and Guide units in 1927 to close. The Fascist regime substituted its own youth program, the Nnational Balilla Organization as part of an overall national effort to control all organizations and institutions which influenced children. Similar steps were taken in other totalitarian countries such as Germany an Russia. Even so, the spirit of Scouting was not completely extinguished. In many villages and cities, groups were secretly formed, whose members wished to remain faithful to Baden Powell's original movement. This time in Italian Scouting history became known as the "Silent Jungle".

Italian Nationalist Groups

The 20th Century has seen the rise of two basic types of boys uniformed youth groups. The Scouts have been the most important. Totalitarian political movements in the 1920s, however, sought to cretate their own scout-like groups that they could use to indoctrinate virtually all young Italians in the principles of Fascism. When fascist and communist parties seized power, they often forced competing youth groups like the Scouts to close. Benito Muscolini's Italian Fascists seized power in 1924??. They established a comprehensive youth movement for all ages from 8 years old on. I know little about this group or what the Fascist policy was toward Scouting groups. Hopefully Italian visitors to HBC will eventually provide us some insights. Unlike the Scouts, the Italian Fascists had no international orientation. One element of Fascist ideology was ravid nationalism and intolerance toward other national and racial groups. Here we have a question. The Fascists were in control of Italy about 10 years before the NAZIs seized control of Germany. The NAZIs in 6 years using the Hitler Youth prpared German youth for war. The Fascists seemed to have been extrodinarily unsuccessful in preparing their youth for war. Why they failed is an interesting question.

Young Pioneers

The Italian Communist party is one of the largest most important in Italy. HBU knows of nothing, however, about the Communist youth movement in Italy. Italy is an excellent example of how right and left wing groups have had trouble competing with the Scouts. The Balial became the major youth group in Itlay, but only when the Fascist supressed Scouting. The Communists, who have never managed to become the governing party--have never been able to compete with Scouting. An Italiann HBC reader reports, "As far a I know Italy has never had an organized Pioneers Group. It is true tat we had a big Communist party but remember that, even in those regions where communists ganered 60 percent of the votes (Emilia Romagna, Toscana, etc.), our Catholic church was enormously more powerful. The Church organized "Azione Cattolica" (Catholic Action for Youths), still very common in virtually every town. Since in Italy the only "agency" which can provide a base and a support to youth organizations is the church (the priests I mean, present in every town, village, etc.), most of groups are catholic or related in some way with religion. This is the example of scouts of AGESCI, is much larger and more wide spread than CNGEI because of this reason. CNGEI on the other side is recognized since 1916 as an "Ente Morale" (for civil and social national education) and so where it is active, the Mayor or the Town government should provide a base and some financial help. This, in fact, does not happen very often. Anyway, no pionniers in Italy. Azione Cattolica does not have a uniform, except a pin on the jacket or a neckerchief (on the style of boy scouts) during some activities.







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Created: September 7, 2000
Last updated: October 3, 2003